French Pot Roast


There are specific dishes that are representative of a flavor profile that is so primitive and baked into cultural DNA that it should never be screwed with. Pot roast is one such dish. When the weather turns cold and damp, a pot roast warms the heart as much as the stomach.

The reason why I bring this up is that I picked up a pressure cooker on Black Friday and was thinking about cooking a really nice hunk of chuck roast that I got at the butcher. However, when considering my affection for traditional French-style pot roast, I decided to respect the old ways and cook this in a Dutch oven.

Chuck roast comes from the shoulder part of the steer and is a tough cut of meat that, when butchered, is actually two cuts in one. The Denver muscle, the longer of the two, runs alongside the chuck eye and is separated by a hunk of fat and silver skin. If you get to the butcher early you should ask for the “first cut chuck roast” which has better marbling but seeing as how I didn’t get out early I ended up with the second cut. At any rate, it’s still flavorful and worth having but chuck roast takes time and needs to be braised.

img_20161210_142604The first step is to prepare the meat. There is a chunk of fat shoved between the chuck roast halves and another embedded in the Denver muscle. This fat is going to render out and you don’t need it for the meat because it is going to get braised so I prefer to cut as much fat out as possible. I separate the two halves of roast and cut the fat out of the middle while also trimming off the silver skin. The fat that is in the Denver muscle will render out so just leave it intact.

img_20161210_142947Tie the roast together with 3 loops of twine and liberally season with ground pepper and coarse sea salt. Seriously, liberally season with salt and pepper on both sides. Let it rest in your refrigerator for at least 60 minutes.

This step is actually really important. The salt will start drawing out the moisture in the meat and start drawing into the surface of the meat. Beef left uncovered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours will simulate the dry aging that is associated with expensive steaks. Allowing the enzymes in the meat to do their work and begin breaking down the meat itself is a guaranteed flavor enhancer.

1 bottle red wine, I go with a Bordeaux or medium cab
4-5 parsley sprigs
2 tbs chopped parsley
2-3 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
Ground black pepper
4 oz. thick sliced bacon, coarse chopped
1 medium onion, diced fine
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs unbleached all-purpose flour (I used gluten-free)
2 cups beef broth
4 medium carrots, cut or whole
10 oz. white mushrooms, quartered
1 tbs unflavored gelatin (powdered)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

46756b3a-561a-4e16-ba24-53d8d961a910Cook bacon until almost crisp, in the Dutch oven. With a slotted spoon, remove and set aside the bacon, reserving all but 2 tbs of the bacon fat. On medium-high heat, brown the meat on all sides for 8-10 minutes total. Really sear it to get a mahogany patina that screams flavor.

In a saucepan, reduce the bottle of wine to approximately 2 cups and set aside.

On medium heat, add onion and saute until soft, 5 minutes tops.  Add the garlic, bacon, and flour. Stir continuously until the flour has been absorbed and a fragrant aroma rises from the mixture. Add the reduced wine and beef broth to the Dutch oven and scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to break loose the browned bits, otherwise known as flavor. Return the roast to the Dutch oven, with any juices released from the meat as it was resting. Increase heat to medium.

With kitchen twine, bundle together the parsley and thyme sprigs with the bay leaves sandwiched in between, tie off with kitchen twine. Add roast to Dutch oven and cover the entire pot with a piece of foil. Cover tightly with lid and place in oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. You will know the meat is cooked when a fork slides with little resistance; the objective is to break down the tough roast in addition to just cooking it, so use the time to your advantage and like our Facebook page.

img_20161210_160910I planted some Nantes carrots late in the summer and am fortunate enough to have fresh carrots ready for harvest now. In temperate climates, carrots are a great winter vegetable to grow but you have to get them into the ground before the cold sets in. You can peel these if you choose but a good scrubbing to remove any dirt is fine with me.

Add the carrots to the Dutch oven at the 2-hour mark. Add some cold water to a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin in to allow it to bloom in the water.

Add the carrots and mushrooms to the Dutch oven at the 2-hour mark. Add some cold water to a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin in to allow it to bloom in the water.

When the meat is cooked, remove Dutch oven from oven. Remove meat and place on a cutting board, tent with foil for 30 minutes.

Remove the herb bundle and skim off any fat from the Dutch oven and return to medium-high heat on the stove. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until reduced by about 1/3. Add gelatin to the sauce and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the twine from the meat and slice across the grain in 1/2″ slices. Plate with vegetables and cover with a healthy spoonful of the sauce. In the featured image on this post, I served the pot roast over vermicelli noodles, which are gluten-free, for a great presentation. I also had this as leftovers for lunch yesterday, served on some rice.